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About this poet

Sandra María Esteves was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. She is the author of Bluestown Mockinbird Mambo (Arte Publico Press, 1990) and Yerba Buena (Greenfield Review, 1980). A member of the Nuyorican movement, Esteves is a founding poet of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and the former executive director of the African Caribbean Poetry Theater. She received a poetry fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts in 1985. She has served as a teaching artist for over thirty years and has conducted literary programs for the Bronx Council on the Arts, El Museo del Barrio, and the New York City Board of Education, among other educational institutions. She lives in the Bronx.

Religious Instructions for Young Casualties

Believe in yourself.
Be all that you can.
Look for your fate among the stars.
Imagine you are your best when being yourself
the best way you can.

Believe in yourself. Be all you want to be.
Open your mind, a window to the world,
different ways of thinking, seeing,
but be yourself—it’s the best.

Become your dreams, visions to live by.
No matter what anyone says,
believe you can do it.
Day by day, a little at a time.
Be patient.

Believe you can find a way
to assemble the puzzle called life,
forming pictures that make some kind of sense.
Even when pieces fall scattered to the ground,
disappearing into the finite void,
forever lost, never to be found,
choosing your future from those that are left,
like one piece from some other dimension.

Maybe a corner triangle shape of sky,
or zigzag of ocean floor with seaweed and one school of fish,
or maybe a centerpiece on the table in some fancy dining room,
or patch of window lace curtain next to flowered bouquet,
wind blowing through sunlight, which some artist will paint someday.
Or bouncing feet on the moon,
walking in giant moon leaps, talking moon talk,
deep into research in your flying laboratory.

Be all that you can, but believe in yourself.
Climb the stairway of your imagination, one step after another.
Growing like the leaf, blossoming into a great tree,
complete with squirrels, nests, universe all around.

Be all that you can,
just believe in yourself.

From Bluestown Mockingbird Mambo (Arte Publico Press, 1990). Copyright © 1990 by Sandra María Esteves. Used with the permission of the author.

From Bluestown Mockingbird Mambo (Arte Publico Press, 1990). Copyright © 1990 by Sandra María Esteves. Used with the permission of the author.

Sandra María Esteves

Sandra María Esteves

Sandra María Esteves is the author of Bluestown Mockinbird Mambo (Arte Publico Press, 1990) and Yerba Buena (Greenfield Review, 1980). A member of the Nuyorican movement, she lives in the Bronx.

by this poet

poem

Being Puertorriqueña-Dominicana
Borinqueña-Quisqueyana
Taina-Africana
Born in the Bronx. Not really jíbara
Not really hablando bien
But yet, not gringa either
Pero ni portorra
Pero sí, portorra too
Pero ni qué what am I? Y qué soy?
Pero con what voice do my lips move?

poem

Nina Simone, Celia Cruz, Billie Holiday, and Bessie
were all sistas growin’ up,
keepin’ her company through only-child-blues.
Afternoons spent laughin’, cryin’, dancin’ motown gold,
harmonizin’ are-’n-be teen sweet melodies.

Aretha Franklin, La Lupe, Diana and the Supremes
stayed up

poem

weaver
weave us a song of many threads

weave us a red of fire and blood
that taste of sweet plum
fishing around the memories of the dead
following a scent wounded
our spines bleeding with pain

weave us a red of passion
that beats wings against a smoky cloud
and forces